Definitions

finishing something

Why Don't We Do It in the Road?

"Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" is a song by The Beatles released on their 1968 album The Beatles, commonly referred to as The White Album. It was written and sung by Paul McCartney, but credited, as usual, to Lennon/McCartney. "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" is short and simple; 1:42 of twelve-bar blues that begins with three different percussion elements (a hand banging on the back of an acoustic guitar, handclaps, and drums) and features McCartney's increasingly raucous vocal repeating a simple lyric with only two different lines.

Inspiration

While on retreat in Rishikesh, India with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, McCartney saw two monkeys copulating in the street and marvelled in the simplicity of this natural scenario when compared to the emotional turmoil of human relationships. He later said:
A male [monkey] just hopped on the back of this female and gave her one, as they say in the vernacular. Within two or three seconds he hopped off again and looked around as if to say, ‘It wasn't me,’ and she looked around as if there'd been some mild disturbance ... And I thought ... that's how simple the act of procreation is ... We have horrendous problems with it, and yet animals don't.

Recording

On 9 October, 1968, while John Lennon and George Harrison were working on two other songs for the album, McCartney recorded five takes of the song in Studio One at Abbey Road Studios. Unlike its heavy blues result, the song began as an acoustic guitar number with McCartney alternating by verse between gentle and strident vocal styles. On this first night, McCartney played all the instruments himself. This version of the song can be found on the Beatles' Anthology 3.

On 10 October, McCartney and Ringo Starr finished the song, Starr adding drums and handclaps, McCartney adding more vocals, bass guitar, and lead guitar. Lennon and Harrison were again occupied, supervising string overdubs for "Piggies" and "Glass Onion."

Lennon's reaction

Lennon was unhappy that McCartney recorded the song without him. In his 1980 interview with Playboy, he said:
Playboy: "Why Don't We Do It In The Road?"
Lennon: That's Paul. He even recorded it by himself in another room. That's how it was getting in those days. We came in and he'd made the whole record. Him drumming. Him playing the piano. Him singing. But he couldn't—he couldn't—maybe he couldn't make the break from the Beatles. I don't know what it was, you know. I enjoyed the track. Still, I can't speak for George, but I was always hurt when Paul would knock something off without involving us. But that's just the way it was then.
Playboy: You never just knocked off a track by yourself?
Lennon: No.
Playboy: "Julia"?
Lennon: That was mine.

"Julia" was recorded four days after the first session for "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?," and is a solo performance by Lennon (double-tracked lead vocals and acoustic guitar).

In a 1981 conversation with Hunter Davies, who had written a biography of the Beatles in 1968, McCartney responded to a Yoko Ono interview where she said McCartney had hurt Lennon more than anyone else, by saying, "No one ever goes on about the times John hurt me ... Could I have hurt him more than the person who ran down his mother in his car?" He then brought up Lennon's comments about "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?": "There's only one incident I can think of that John has mentioned publicly. It was when I went off with Ringo and did 'Why Don't We Do It in the Road'. It wasn't a deliberate thing. John and George were tied up finishing something and me and Ringo were free, just hanging around, so I said to Ringo, 'Let's go and do this.'"

McCartney also expressed some lingering resentment about a similar incident with "Revolution 9", recorded in June 1968, a few months before "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?": "Anyway, he did the same with 'Revolution 9'. He went off and made that without me. No one ever says that. John is the nice guy and I'm the bastard. It gets repeated all the time."

Personnel

  • Paul McCartney – vocals, acoustic guitar, piano, lead guitar, bass guitar, handclaps
  • Ringo Starr – drums, handclaps

Credits per Ian MacDonald.

Cover versions

Notes

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